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Learning of a T-maze by rat pups when contact with the mother is either permitted or denied


Panagiotaropoulos,  T
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Panagiotaropoulos, T., Diamantopoulou A, Stamatakis A, Dimitropoulou, M., & Stylianopoulou, F. (2009). Learning of a T-maze by rat pups when contact with the mother is either permitted or denied. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 91(1), 2-12. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2008.09.007.

Mother–pup interactions constitute an important component of environmental stimulation of the offspring during the neonatal period. Employing maternal contact as either a positive reinforcer or, its denial, as a frustrative, non-rewarding stimulus, we developed a novel experimental paradigm involving learning by rat neonates of a T-maze. When trained under the reward of maternal contact during postnatal days 10–13 Wistar rat pups learned the choice leading to the mother in a T-maze. When tested 2 h later, in the absence of the mother, pups showed a clear preference for the arm of the T-maze leading to the position of the mother during training. Furthermore, pups receiving the expected reward of maternal contact had higher numbers of c-Fos immunopositive cells in the dorsal striatum compared to either naïve or pups denied the expected reward. The above behavioral and cellular results indicate that pups receiving the expected reward developed a procedural-like memory. When trained under frustrative non-rewar d pups learned to make the correct choice in the T-maze, albeit less efficiently than pups receiving the expected reward. Following this training condition c-Fos immunohistochemistry revealed increased activation of the CA1 area of the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex. Expression of the information learned by the pups denied the expected reward was contingent upon the presence of the mother in the experimental setup in exactly the same configuration as during the training.